December 20, 2011
For kindle version - http://amzn.to/rS8poh
Very interesting discourse on late 19th century academic painting, more specifically as practiced in England at the time. John Collier's works are well-executed and that validates his words even more. You will probably find this book's tone very similar to Harold Speed's books. Personally I find this better than Parkhurst's book.
References to Millais, Alma-Tadema, Poynter and even Carolus Duran(who was Sargent's teacher) makes this book a trip to the past when art academies often follow rigorous and pretty standardised forms of training.(I find it amusing that Poynter's instructions, which were drawn up to be used in the schools at that time, were described as "The Laws of the Medes and Persians") Monochrome painting in casts, still life and other subjects are discussed, with a palette recommended by Poynter. Duran's methodology of painting is discussed as well, using text provided by one of Duran's students. The importance of good drawing is stressed as well.
This is a very thin book, with NO illustrations or pretty pictures. An evening's read should finish this book or at least give you a good idea of it. However, it is packed full of interesting tidbits and stuff that will help you understand Victorian painting more fully. There are 2 sections in the book, the first is Practical, and second is Theory. The theory part can get quite confusing as it deals with 19th century pre-Munsell colour theory, so the nomenclature used may be a little dated and hard to digest. Nevertheless, it offers a really fascinating glimpse into the world of art training and making as practiced at the time. The Practical section talks about painting, comparing your colour mixtures with what you see using your palette-knife, setting up a still-life, the use of sight-size, etc. Collier discusses history painting too, and how to go about planning your composition, etc. He also touches a little on the difficulties of portraiture, and I like it that he stresses the importance of tone, and tint in painting.
I would only recommend this book to intermediate and advanced students of drawing/painting, as beginners will be sorely disappointed that this is more of a historical paper with short bursts of information for the starter in oils. For a researcher it won't hurt to have this little book on your shelf. And if you're a fan of academic painting who enjoys looking into the kind of training in the 19th century this book will delight you, being written by one of the more accomplished painters of the period.